Bill Ladson

Murphy delivers game-tying HR off bench

Murphy delivers game-tying HR off bench

WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy was out of the starting lineup for the third consecutive game Sunday, but he pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth inning and homered off Pirates closer Mark Melancon to tie the game at 1. Washington lost, 2-1, in 18 innings.

"I was trying to get a good pitch to hit and get my 'A' swing off," Murphy said. "That's what it boils down to. Mark is so tough. I just got done seeing him at the All-Star Game. … I was able to work that at-bat and get a good pitch to hit."

Murphy worked the count to 2-2 and hit the ball over the right-field wall, which amazed manager Dusty Baker.

"I was saving Murph for a situation where he didn't have to run," Baker said. "This was MVP-caliber and, in my mind, he is having an MVP season. That was big, especially off a guy like Melancon who is an All-Star and a pretty good pitcher."

Murphy has been dealing with left hamstring issues, but general manager Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio that Murphy is 100 percent and was kept out of Sunday's starting lineup as a precaution. Murphy hurt the hamstring sliding during Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Before Sunday's game, Murphy was seen on the field at Nationals Park doing running drills without any problems. He then ran the bases. Murphy is expected to start Tuesday when the Nationals play the Dodgers.

Anthony Rendon, who was originally listed hitting cleanup in Sunday's starting lineup, was scratched because of flu-like symptoms. He spent Sunday's game in the trainer's room in the dark.

"We were limited on our bench. We didn't have out full bench," Baker said.

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.